Why use this guide?

Encouraging participation and ensuring non-biased responses can be critical to your research project success. Understand how to do so with the help of this guide.

Invitations to participate

First impressions count. Crafting a compelling invitation to participate in your work is critical to your project success. The recipients of your email receive many emails from many organisations. Use these top tips to boost open-rates, click-through rates and encourage participation.

  • To field: If you know the first names of the people you’re emailing, always personalise your emails with Dear [insert name] using a mail merge function. The email will feel more personal and recipients are more likely to open the email and respond.
  • From field: Always send emails from a real person’s email address i.e., not an or accounts. The email will feel more personal, and recipients may feel a greater sense of responsibility to reply.
  • Subject line: A clear, short, compelling subject line will appeal to the people you’re emailing. Here are three suggestions for your subject line:
    • Have your say about [insert organisation] and go into the draw to win [insert prize]
    • Your expertise required: [insert organisation]
    • Invitation to participate in paid research for [insert organisation]
  • Body text: Always outline the ‘ask’, including the duration. If it’s in person, include the location. Advise if there will be food provided, and also mention the incentive or prize up for grabs.
  • Newsletters, social media and networks: Share your project and the opportunity to participate in your newsletter, social media channels and with your networks in the community who might have access to groups of people you want to reach.

Use the Invitation Template to draft your correspondence.


Incentives are not always required, but they are recommended – particularly if you’re interviewing your attendees or members of your community. The exception to this is in a business to business setting. Typically, when you’re interviewing peers or professionals an incentive is not required.

If you choose to provide an incentive, you should design one that entices as many people as possible to respond and that appropriately recognises the time/effort involved (such as interview length and travel considerations) and minimises the risk of non-biased responses. For example, if you offer two tickets to an upcoming show or exhibition, people who are interested in attending are more likely to respond, and your responses are much more likely to be biased.

There are also legislative requirements around what you can offer and AMSRS guidelines around offering your own products and services. Read more about what you can and can’t offer as an incentive in the AMSRS guideline on Incentives for Participation in Market and Social Research.

The same principal applies when choosing not to offer an incentive. If you don’t offer an incentive, people who really love your organisation may be more likely to respond. Ideally, you want to hear from attendees or those in your community who have positive and maybe not so positive experiences.

Many organisations wish to hear from people in their community who are not currently attendees, and an incentive is a good way to encourage their participation.

Typically, incentives that are generic, ‘cash equivalents’ increase response rates and reduce the risk of biasing your results, as they appeal to more people.

If you choose to offer a gift voucher, ensure that the gift and/or brand appeals to as many people as possible. It’s best to use a large shopping centre, technology company, or well-known chain store in your area, such as a supermarket or department store.

It is important to read more about incentives, including legislative requirements, in the AMSRS Guideline on Incentives for Participation in Market and Social Research.


Incentives for focus groups and interviews

Incentives for focus groups should be proportionate to the project to ensure the incentive is not seen as a form of inducement or bribe. For example, a longer interview may require a higher value incentive.

Take care to ensure your incentives are appropriate when working with children, people living with disability, cultural groups or with government departments.

Where long-distances are involved, consider travel reimbursement.

Incentives for surveys

When it comes to surveys, it is impossible to provide an appealing incentive to every person who responds. Gain more traction and interest in your survey by offering one or two larger incentives.

Take a moment to do a quick web search and read about your obligations for Victorian trade promotion lotteries. You can read more about incentives in the AMSRS guideline on Good Practice for Market and Social Research Interviews.


Incentives guide

How you choose to incentivise or not incentivise your research will have a direct impact on what you can ask of people in terms of their time. It will also impact the reliability of your results and the likelihood of your responses being biased. There are some examples in the table below to guide you when choosing how to incentivise your research.

MethodExample incentiveDurationLikely response rateLikelihood of biased results
On-site intercept$20 per person20 minutesExcellentLow
Prize draw $100-$20020 minutesGoodLow
No incentive10 minutesAverageMedium
Face to face interview (attendees or community)$60 regional
$80 metro
50 minutesExcellentLow
Tickets50 minutesAverage/PoorMedium/High
No incentive20 minutesPoorHigh
Skype interview (attendees or community)$4050 minutesExcellentLow
Tickets50 minutesAverage/PoorMedium/High
No incentive20 minutesPoorHigh
Short online surveyPrize draw $100-$2001 to 15 questionsExcellentLow
No incentiveAverage/PoorHigh
Strategic online surveyPrize draw $300+16 to 30 questionsExcellentLow
No incentiveAverage/PoorHigh
Focus group (per person)$60 regional
$80 metro
90 minutesExcellentLow
Wine and chocolatesPoorMedium/High
No incentivePoorHigh

Any method (business to business or your networks i.e. not members of the public)

No incentive50 minutes or 16 to 30 questionsGood/ExcellentLow/Medium